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EV battery recycling in India

  Aug 18, 2020

EV battery recycling in India

Q. Why is it in News?

A.  Recently Delhi government has announced its new electric vehicle policy to incentivize adoption of electric vehicles, this has brought notice of environmentalist and field experts to recycling of electric vehicle batteries.

 Electric vehicles (EV) are a part of the new normal as the global transportation sector undergoes a paradigm shift, with a clear preference towards cleaner and greener vehicles.

Like its western counterparts and China, India has pushed the mandate for EVs as well, through schemes such as Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) I and FAME II.

EV sales in the country are expected to grow annually at a compound annual growth rate of 35 per cent till 2026, according to a market survey by news daily Economic Times.

Q. Which Type of battery is used in Powering the EVs?

A. Initially, EVs were powered with lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries that include other chemical moieties like cobalt, graphite and nickel now form the heart of an EV.

At the end of the battery lifespan, what remains is battery waste, comprising enormous amounts of chemicals such as cobalt, electrolytes, lithium, manganese oxide and nickel.

Q What are some challenges for India in field of battery waste? 

  • India, at present, is underprepared for the sheer volume of EV battery waste expected in the coming decade.
  • Most of our e-waste is dumped in landfills.
  • Further, we do not have adequate legislation that can prevent illegal dumping of spent lithium batteries.
  • This sets a dangerous precedent, as India can potentially become a lithium waste dumpsite for not just waste from domestic EVs, but also from import of spent batteries.

Q. What are legal provisions of recycling of battery? 

  • The most recent legislations the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016 and E-waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018  evolved considerably in terms of the range of materials.
  • They do not, however, include a cohesive set of rules for the safe disposal of EV batteries. Li-ion batteries, thus, find no mention, in any framework for end-of-life treatment or recycling.

Q. What are threats posed by un-recycled batteries? 

  • The batteries constitute substances that if not recycled or treated in a proper fashion can cause harm to both the environment and humans.
  • Further, lithium itself spontaneously reacts with moisture and can lead to major landfill explosions.

Q. What are some Global precedence over batteries regulation ?

A. Several nations are ahead of the curve and have mandated legislations that deal with battery recycling and treatment:

(1) EU Batteries Directive

The Batteries Directive was issued by the European Union to minimise the negative impact of batteries and accumulators on the environment.

The Batteries Directive broke down the different stages of the process of collection and recycling of waste batteries and issued directions on how each of these must be performed.

(2) Germany

Germany puts a legal obligation on producers to collect their products from the consumer and deposit them in containers managed by the GRS Batterien Foundation.

It is set up by leading battery manufactures and the German Electrical and Electronics Industry Association in 1998.

It ensures collected waste is segregated and sorted according to electrochemical composition leading to efficient extraction of materials that can be recovered and recycled.

(3) Japan

The Japan Battery Recycling Centre (JBRC), established in 2004, is a producer-responsibility organisation that helps keep the process of recycling waste batteries going.

Consumers and offices  that utilise technology running on batteries  discharge delivery to collection sites placed with retailers who register with the JBRC as co-operation shops for recycling.

The collection sites facilitate segregation of the batteries by providing four different types of labels for four different types of batteries.

Q. Where does India stand among these?

A. The Indian e-waste legal regime underwent a tremendous change over time and has only recently embraced EPR and collection of e-waste.

A lack of clear scientific guidelines and regulations tailor-made for li-ion batteries, however, leads to poor return of investments in setting up recycling units, as it is a capital-intensive initiative.

In October 2019, the framing of a much-awaited recycling policy was proposed by the Union government.

It is, however, still awaited. The first step to creating a circular economy for EV batteries is to expand our laws to include li-ion battery chemistries.

Q. What needs to be done?

  • Large quantities of EV battery waste presented a unique opportunity to nurture a domestic recycling industry, which is currently in its infancy.
  • The process of recycling can help recover up to half the valuable metals, including aluminium, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese and nickel, which can then be used for secondary applications.
  • Tata Chemicals Ltd, for example, commissioned a li-ion battery recycling plant in Maharashtra in 2019.
  • Governments must take a proactive stance when it comes to the development of batteries that cause less harm to the environment.
  • There must be an extended producer responsibility (EPR) mechanism that ensured manufacturers of batteries to bear a legal obligation of their products being safely recycled and disposed of.